Very Expensive Restaurants: The 2009 Philly Mag 50

Barclay Prime
Rittenhouse Square | Steakhouse | Entrées: More than $30
Ranking: 17 • Last Year’s Ranking: 16
As more steakhouses set up camp around the city, it just becomes more obvious: Nobody tops Barclay when it comes to a splurgy, spectacular steak dinner. Sure, it’s a little over-the-top (a $120 strip; that $100 cheesesteak; an entirely too earnest tableside knife presentation), especially in frugal times like these. But frankly, that’s part of the appeal. More than anywhere else in the city, chic, beautiful Barclay provides us with a glittering escape, one where hunks of perfectly seasoned beef sizzle on our plates; where even potatoes feel like a delicious extravagance (try the truffle whipped version); where servers call us “sir” and “ma’am” as though they mean it; where we’re compelled to linger over good crème brûlée and even better port. Tomorrow, when we’re a couple pounds heavier and our wallets are a couple Benjamins lighter, we’ll pay our penance. But first, we feast. Order: The 24-ounce porterhouse, and potato skins. 237 South 18th Street, 215-732-7560. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsMake a Reservation

Center City | French | Entrée: More than $30
Ranking: 6 • Last Year’s Ranking: 12
With entrées priced in the upper $30s, formal table settings and gracious waiters, the Fountain Restaurant is taking the last-man-standing approach to fine French dining. And if it keeps on executing with such perfection, survive it will. Some menu items seem to defy culinary logic, like an egg yolk that’s panko-crusted-crispy yet oozing on the inside. Others are just shining examples of the seasoned staff’s timeless cooking techniques, like the simmered-for-hours Pommery mustard demi that coats the ideally pink veal chop. And while this is cooking in its most classic form, dining here means you’ll remember the stellar service, hushed conversations and tasteful dining room as much as you do the food—which is exactly the experience the Fountain is going for. Order: The cheese course—it’s a treat that’s rarely done this well. 1 Logan Square, 215-963-1500. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Rittenhouse Square | Eclectic | Entrée: More than $30
Ranking: 5 • Last Year’s Ranking: 2
We wouldn’t blame the brass over at the Rittenhouse Hotel if they freaked out when Matt Levin announced in December that he was leaving Lacroix to open his forthcoming Masano in Northern Liberties. It was Levin, after all, who turned the hotel restaurant into one of Philly’s most exciting places to eat. But everyone can relax: Levin’s young chef de cuisine, Jason Cichonski, is at the helm, and he’s rocking the job with an innovative menu (love the tomato-cheddar soup, garnished with a wistful drizzle of charcoal oil) and note-perfect execution (even an escarole salad was a triumph) on almost all the dishes. Add to that a contemporary Zen decor, servers and a sommelier who are unerring in their recommendations, and details that make us smile (amuses-bouches that could be art; the chef’s take-home breakfast pastry, gratis), and you have a restaurant we’re still excited to call our own. Order: The five- or eight-plate tasting menu—the more you get to sample here, the better. 210 West Rittenhouse Square, second floor, 215-790-2533. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Le Bec-Fin
Center City | French | Entrées: More than $30
Ranking: 46 • Last Year’s Ranking: 26
As identity crises go, the one suffered by our beloved Le Bec has had foodies wringing linen napkins for years, because we so desperately want the place to succeed. Although it’s slipping, we’re not giving up: Georges Perrier’s signature dishes are still executed with such care and precision (and we like that we can now get them à la carte). If he could just resurrect his roast pigeon, nurture other once-­sublime classics (galette de crabe, escargots, Dover sole), and quell his proclivity for muttering “Merde” while stomping past tables—all the while preserving that ever-glorious, worth-the-trip-alone dessert cart—we’d fall in love all over again. Order: Champagne and anything from the dessert cart. 1523 Walnut Street, 215-567-1000. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Little Fish
Queen Village | Seafood | Entrées: More than $30
Ranking: 41 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
This restaurant is so small that busboys have to walk tubs of dirty dishes out the front door to get to the back washroom, so as not to disrupt the 23-seat dinning room. That ­welcome-to-my-home South Philly appeal, a small, well-priced menu, and high-quality ingredients make this corner restaurant a prime example of all that a mom-and-pop BYO can be. Of course, the food here—fish that’s masterfully prepared by owner Michael Stollenwerk (who took over the spot in 2007), with exciting but never daunting ­combinations—is what brought this restaurant national attention when Bon Appétit named it one of the best seafood restaurants in the country late last year. Order: The Sunday-night-only, five-course, $28 tasting menu, filled with dishes like mussels in a carrot soup, and skate with veal cheek. 600 Catharine Street, 215-413-3464. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Talula’s Table
Kennett Square | Gourmet To Go | $90 prix fixe
Ranking: 9 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
Many diners who experienced the magic of Django in its heyday now wait—up to a year—for a reservation at Talula’s Table, where chef Bryan Sikora whips up an eight-course “Farm Table Dinner” for 12 lucky diners nightly in the gourmet market he and wife Aimee Olexy run in Kennett Square. When you arrive at the store, shoppers are still checking out, and it’s hard to imagine the room will become a worthy setting for one of the best food experiences of your life. But once the lights dim and your wine has been poured, you feel cocooned by the quiet of horse country and the onslaught of intricately composed plates. The prix-fixe menu changes monthly, but often includes wild ingredients (like ramps and leeks) harvested by the chef himself. Order: Nothing! Dining here means you eat what Chef has prepared. 102 West State Street, Kennett Square, 610-444-8255. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee Menu

Union Trust
Old City | New American | Entrées: $21-$30
Ranking: 29 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
Union Trust—one of the city’s few non-chain steakhouses—bills itself as a place built for Philadelphia. But we appreciate the luxe restaurant’s unwavering pursuit of perfection and modern yet personality-filled vibe even more than the soft-pretzel rolls it serves in its bread basket. Service is top-notch: A battalion of waiters fusses over diners, swapping out white cloth napkins for black if you’re wearing dark clothing, crumbing the table obsessively between courses, and expertly recommending wine pairings. The straightforward steakhouse fare is just what you crave: a richly beefy rib eye, a juicy pork chop, perfectly cooked bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts, decadent German chocolate cake. Yes, like most steakhouses, a meal here is pricey. But at Union Trust, you can count on getting what you pay for. Order: Bone-in rib eye. 717 Chestnut Street, 215-925-6000. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsMake a Reservation

Center City | Italian | Entrée: More than $30
Ranking: 2 • Last Year’s Ranking: 7
Marc Vetri says all he wants is for diners to remember what a great time they had at his namesake Spruce Street spot. While that philosophy may seem uncomplicated, executing it is anything but. Vetri is now in its 11th year, and the culinary missteps of meals past (like a lackluster squab) are gone, thanks to a talented team of servers led by sommelier and business partner Jeffrey Benjamin and a kitchen championed by Vetri’s trusted chef, Brad Spence. Here, luxury is redefined with a provincial approach, but despite the carefree air the place exudes, everything is intricately planned, and nothing is overlooked. Mouthwatering pastas are draped in sauces like beefy rib-cap ragu; bay scallops are so tender, they masquerade as gnocchi; and the gnocchi are a weightless version of the doughy puffs you thought you knew. Of course, all this approachability has its price: The weekend tasting menu is $135, and the scant 35 seats make nabbing reservations hard. But it’s still the finest dining in an ain’t-no-big-thing vibe that makes Vetri the cornerstone of our current, groundbreaking restaurant era. Order: The house-cured sausage.312 Spruce Street, 215-732-3478. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

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